I wish I had known it a long time ago. I wish I had known that words well-crafted can’t heal like an ear gently offered.
Because if I had known it, Conflict wouldn’t have so often been handed an invitation to trample on my day with all the delicacy of a herd of elephants. And oh, the things that happen next. We protest that we were caught off guard and protest that there is now mud all over us and we protest that WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS, and then we list out, in crisp staccato, the long list of opinions we have on the matter.
It happens constantly. Hurt happens, and then it wants to spill. It doesn’t tend to stay in a tidy box of five minutes and three sentences. It’s not exactly something we are well-versed on, this business of hurt feelings. Sometimes it’s just the way it stampedes in that leaves us sputtering and slack-jawed. I have a confession: I’ve often resented it. Conflict doesn’t catch me in my best mood on my best days. And I kind of don’t like coming up short on the strategy side of things. Some of us blow up, and others of us shut up.
But here’s a thought: What if we listened up? What if we could take the posture of Jesus and wash feet with the way that we listen? What if it sounded a bit like,
“Wow, I am truly sorry you found that to be hurtful. Thank you for sharing that. I really don’t take it for granted that we can be open and honest with each other. I’m so glad we are. Can you help me understand ____? I’m sincerely asking.”
There’s this thought that’s been growing inside of me like a whispered, secret invitation, and it is this:
“I have the right to ____ but I also have an opportunity where I could ____.”
I have the right to defend myself, but I have an opportunity instead to be quiet and simply listen.
I have the right to point out that their delivery was harsh or lofty, but I have an opportunity instead to hold a space for their hurt and be gentle in return.
I have the right to stake out my claim but I have the opportunity to step aside for them.
I have the right to do any number of self-serving things, but I have an opportunity to be a place where they can feel respite.
I have the right to live within the bounds of the natural but I have the opportunity to live in the wide open spaces of the supernatural.
Certainly we all have the right to turn to words but what if instead we created a space for them? Because, just between you and me, it’s remarkable what can happen when someone feels heard. It’s uncommon, this idea of making room for others during fragile exchanges of words wrapped in so many feelings. But you may well receive a two-fold gift: actually hearing (maybe for the first time??) what is said, and realizing deep within you their many struggles left unsaid.
I recently went through a season in my personal relationships where God made it very clear to me that I was not to share my opinion. On anything. I was to be an active listener, and that was all. At first it was strange to enter into conversations having pre-decided this. Then it became peaceful, like a place to surrender each day. Then it became a startling revelation. I began to hear things I’d never heard before, to understand things I’d never understood before. But what started out as a few pitiful loaves and fishes of my silence has turned into overflowing baskets of supernatural understanding and love. God help us, we don’t need another formula for relationships. We just need to offer up whatever He asks, and expect Him to do the supernatural with it.
And the supernatural is precisely where resurrection begins.